Teething Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held

What do you do when your teething baby won’t sleep unless held? In this article, I’ll walk you through exactly how to ease his symptoms and help him finally sleep.

Teething Baby Won't Sleep Unless HeldYour once-good sleeper is now inconsolable, all thanks to her growing teeth.

She starts crying the minute you put her down in the crib. If you manage to get her to fall asleep, she’ll only do so an hour at a time. And even when teething is no longer the culprit, she has now fallen into new habits of needing to be held.

The tricky thing with teething is that it isn’t a one-time event. She’ll continue to grow teeth for years, and you’ll need to rely on educated guesses to pinpoint teething. It’s especially tricky when it disrupts her sleep.

So, what do you do when she needs you to fall asleep, yet you find yourself falling into habits that leave you both exhausted? Take a look at these tips to get your little one sleeping well again. As one parent said:

“I am so glad I found this blog. I am going through this right now (currently day 4) and it’s rough on every level. Thank you for sharing.” -Briana V.

Attend to your baby’s needs

It’s easy to lose your patience with teething, considering how often it happens and how ambiguous its symptoms can be (babies seem to drool all the time!). But if you’re certain that your baby is miserable because of teething, now is the time to attend to his needs.

Because at the end of the day, you would also console him if he had a bad cold or a high fever. Don’t assume that you’re “spoiling” him, or that you’ll forever be stuck with these habits (more on that, later).

Instead, comfort him as you would any other time in his life when he needs you. Think of it as a temporary stage that will eventually pass.

Spoiled Baby

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

Go back to your old routine

That said, what do you do when you suspect your baby is no longer teething, but has instead grown used to her “new” routine?

Simple: go back to your old one.

Let’s say her tooth has finally come in and you don’t see any other signs of new ones emerging. Yet she continues to insist on being rocked or sleeping in your bed every night. Go back to your old routine and re-sleep train if needed.

Repeat whatever method you had chosen to get her to sleep those long stretches at night. And don’t worry—it’s not the same as starting from square one. If she had already been sleep trained, doing it again won’t take as long as it may have initially taken her the first time around.

And while you avoid sleep training while teething, it’s important to go back to your old routine as quickly as possible after the acute pain has passed. These setbacks are going to happen all the time, from getting sick to going on vacation. You’ll constantly be going back to your old routine to reset her sleep habits every once in a while.

Ease your baby’s teething symptoms

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Helping your teething baby sleep starts with keeping him comfortable, both when he’s awake and asleep. Check out these items that have helped me and many parents:

  • Cold teething rings. Offer a cold teething toy he can gnaw on to soothe and cool his tender gums. I placed these teething rings in the freezer (keep them protected in a bag or wrapped in a washcloth) and offered them to my baby to play and chew on.
  • Nighttime cooling gel. Many parents swear by applying this on their babies’ gums. You can even give your baby’s gums a massage as you apply the gel. Stick to those that are non-medicated. The gel shouldn’t numb her gums, only give it a cooling sensation. Follow the directions on the box, including the appropriate age range.
  • Pain relief medicine. Check with your pediatrician to see if over-the-counter medication can help relieve teething pain and discomfort. Always choose the infant version of these medicines. Follow all instructions correctly, including your pediatrician’s. I also found that giving the medicine around an hour before sleep helped it “kick in” right when my baby was about to sleep.
  • Soothing tablets. Place one tablet at a time on your baby’s tongue, where it dissolves quickly. You can also dissolve the tablets in water and offer it as a drink.

Wait a few minutes

As a new mom, I rushed to my baby’s side at the slightest sound of a whimper, thinking that’s what I was supposed to do. Instead, I was miserable and, more importantly, denied him the chance to soothe himself back to sleep.

So, how can you soothe a teething baby at night? If your little one happens to wake up in the middle of the night, give him a few minutes to settle. All babies experience discomfort, and teething comes in all levels of pain. If he sounds like he’s complaining about mild pain, giving him a few minutes could help him learn to manage small-scale discomfort.

Expert tip

He just might put himself to sleep after those few minutes. Not only have you extended his sleep, but he has also learned how to do this on his own.

Take turns with another adult

When all else fails, create a plan with your partner or another adult to tag-team your baby’s wake-ups. Perhaps you handle the first wake up while he does the next, or you take the early evening shift and he does the morning one.

And remind each other that this is temporary. That after this stretch of teething, you can always “re-train” him back to his old habits and help him sleep well once again. But for now, relying on each other can be a huge source of support and help when you most need it.


No one gets any rest when your teething baby won’t sleep unless he’s held.

Thankfully, you now know that going back to your routine, balanced with tending to his needs, is key to getting the sleep you used to have. Ease his symptoms and give him a few minutes before rushing into the room right away. And tag team with another adult to get through those difficult nights.

When this phase of sleepless nights passes—and it will—he can go back to being the good sleeper he had always been!

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  1. Briana VeltKamp says:

    I am so glad I found this blog – I am going through this right now (currently day 4) and it’s rough on every level. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Briana! I’m so glad the article helped <3